Compliance professionals have been in high demand globally since the financial crisis. Despite the advance of regulatory technology, vacancies continue to open up as banks grapple with new regulations and try to avoid billion-dollar fines.
But more people are also entering the sector as compliance roles become more interesting and lucrative. If you’re applying for a job in compliance, getting your CV in shape is a crucial way to fend off the competition.
Here’s some expert advice on how to write the perfect compliance resume.
1. Don’t come across as a generalist
As compliance increasingly splinters off into different specialisms – from monitoring and surveillance to financial crime – it’s dangerous to write a one-size-fits-all resume. “A compliance CV that’s too generic risks being overlooked by a hiring manager, who wants specific details of sector coverage, jurisdictional exposure and longevity at top-tier banks,” says a London-based compliance recruiter. “If your CV focuses on the obvious and is too repetitive, you’ll come across as just another generalist.”
2. Add your IT skills to your compliance resume
“The addition of IT skills is now essential on a compliance CV,” says Leo Bellometti, a compliance consultant at recruitment agency Morgan McKinley. “The increase in specialised roles within compliance has also created a need for skills in specialised IT programmes, so highlighting these will benefit any application.”
3. Focus on regulatory relationships
“Employers are keen to see what and how much interaction you’ve had with the regulators, and how adept you are at interpreting and implementing current and upcoming regulations,” says James Findlay, a director at recruiters Selby Jennings.
4. Highlight your product knowledge
“Product-based compliance is becoming more prevalent as banks struggle to meet requirements laid out by new financial regulations,” says Findlay. “Listing your specific product knowledge pins you as a specialist in your field and allows you to have a greater shot at most front-office facing compliance roles, for example product-advisory compliance.”
5. STARS works well in compliance CVs
You can’t dazzle readers with your sales figures if you work in the middle office, so you need to carefully structure your achievements for each job. The STAR technique (situation, task, action, results), commonly used in job interview answers, works well in compliance CVs, says a middle-office recruiter at a global bank. For each achievement write one sentence on the ‘situation’ (i.e. the business need) and then add bullet points about the tasks you were accountable for and how you performed them. Finally, explain what you accomplished as a result – how you added value to your team and gained new skills.
6. Don’t clutter your CV with keywords
“I often receive CVs that have bullet point sections that just list a stream of compliance keywords without any context about how the candidate is skilled in those areas,” says Pathay Singh, managing director of recruitment agency Compliance Grid. “This makes it difficult for a bank to assess key competencies and can dilute the impact of your profile. You need to provide a narrative and examples to back up your skills.”
7. Don’t downplay your management skills
“One of the key areas that experienced compliance professionals consistently miss on their CVs is highlighting their management experience – this is one of the first questions that banks will enquire about,” says Singh. “You need to clearly state the number of direct reports you have as well as their level/titles. If you don’t have reports, provide examples of leading projects or contributing to leading the promotion of a ‘compliance culture’ throughout a business.”
8. Show how well you work with ‘the business’
As compliance policy becomes more critical to banks, jobs in the sector increasingly demand liaising with different departments and influencing their decision making. “Include details of your interaction with business stakeholders. You’re the contact between regulators and the bank, so effective communication is an essential soft skill,” says Orelia Chan, an associate director at Pure Search. Singh adds: “Clearly state which stakeholders you work with and how you’ve established strong relationships with them.”
9. Have the right hobbies
“Your ability to work with the business comes in many forms – these days the reader of your CV is even looking at your interests and hobbies for evidence,” says the in-house recruiter at the global bank. “Travelling, music and reading are unlikely to set you apart, but if you have interests that highlight competencies such as team work, competitiveness, dedication or networking, they will be worthwhile additions to your compliance resume.”
10. Be careful if you’ve changed jobs a lot
Ideally your compliance resume should be full of lengthy tenures, but if not you need to give legitimate reasons for leaving each role and make it obvious if some of your jobs were contract positions. “Retention is a major issue for compliance managers,” explains the in-house recruiter. “And if you’re a manager yourself, add a sentence about how you’ve attracted and retained staff – that could add enormously to the reader’s perception of you.”
11. Local regulations matter on your compliance CV
While the compliance world is still aflutter with Basel III, FATCA and other regulations with a global reach, most banks like resumes that show a strong understanding of local regulations. “As a lot of regulations differ across countries, so it’s important to state exactly how familiar you are with the domestic regulatory scene,” says Chan from Pure.
12. And so do qualifications
If you have a compliance-related qualification, include it in your summary section at the top of your CV, don’t just bury it at the bottom underneath your university degree. “Just like having a CFA is important in other areas of finance, having an ICA or specific anti-money laundering training will set you apart,” says Findlay from Selby Jennings.
13. The summary section is vital in compliance resumes
You can highlight your compliance specialism from the get-go by writing a summary of your skills and experience at the top of your CV. “Don’t leave employers in any doubt that your product or functional coverage matches that of the job description,” says the London recruiter.
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